The Chair in general committees

39.6The Chair or Chairs of each general committee are appointed by the Speaker from the Panel of Chairs. This consists of not fewer than ten Members nominated by the Speaker at or soon after the commencement of every Session to act as Chairs of general committees, temporary Chairs of Committees of the whole House, when so requested by the Chairman of Ways and Means, together with the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Deputy Chairmen (Standing Orders Nos 4 and 85(1)). Members of the Panel of Chairs also chair sittings in Westminster Hall. In recent years the nominated members of the Panel of Chairs have numbered more than 40 Members.

The Panel of Chairs considers points of procedure and practice affecting general committees, and is empowered to report to the House from time to time its opinion on matters of procedure relating to general committees (Standing Order No 85(4)). The Panel, whose quorum is three, usually meets twice each year.

The Speaker normally appoints two members of the Panel to take the Chair in respect of each government bill allocated to a public bill committee. In the case of other items of business only one Chair is usually appointed. The Speaker is given power to change the Chairs so appointed from time to time (Standing Order No 85(2)). Any member of a general committee may act as temporary Chair, at the request of a Chair of the committee, for not more than a quarter of an hour on any one occasion, but without the powers granted by Standing Order No 89(3) (Standing Order No 85(5)).

The Chairs of general committees are by convention required not to take part in any future deliberations in the House on the instrument, bill or document considered by the committee that they chaired. Where two Chairs are appointed to a public bill committee, those Chairs will generally be drawn from a Government party and the Official Opposition, to ensure the least disruption to the party balance in the House if there is a division in which the Chairs should refrain from participating.